at home – loft workshops 2013


Joshua Dwain Frith, Kate McElwee, and Verna Pitts

At Home w/ David Alan Harvey Workshop

play this essay above


I have decided to occasionally publish here on Burn, work from students I have in workshops…With their work from the 5 days of shooting customary in most workshops…The three students here were all in my recent NYC Loft workshop and all looking in the mirror so to speak…All taking a good look at themselves or their own family…The other thing that makes these three similar is that they all earn their livings as wedding photographers. Good ones too. Yet all three in my class to see if they could take their craft and their art beyond the commercial wedding world which does provide them all with a good living yet still leaves them starving for their own voice.

I give students mostly only one thing. Total freedom. Nothing scares the shit out of people more than total freedom. It is what everyone says they want, and yet when actually handed freedom on a silver platter and with a venue where all this freedom production will appear, and well choke choke choke…Almost every time. Predictable. Normal. People cannot handle creative freedom as well as they think they can. A fantasy that becomes a reality very quickly when new found freedom students hit the street. Angst, tears, hand wringing, sleepless nights are all part of the fun of my classes. I do not take the hot tub seance approach to teaching. I want to change lives. Give each student something they can “use” forever.

None of the three presented here has anything close to a complete essay. These three pieces are in fact all exercises. Meant to get them thinking and a springboard to their next work.

Joshua Dwain Frith a Brooklyn born pro wedding photographer who really wants to “break out” and get into larger realms of photography. Josh started his week with me saying he wanted to do a story on city bikes…I always try to get students to do something close to home, and after talking with Josh he mentioned his aunt and uncle who he rarely visited but had strong childhood connections to. I figured Josh would learn more doing his family than nice bike art….

Kate McElwee is a successful pro wedding photog with a biz in Boston. Polite, urbane, classy, Kate is screaming to get out get moving in new directions. Kate started out the week shooting dogs. Yet finally she became her own best model using self portraiture as a useful hand hold to get going and thinking “voice” for the long run….

Verna Pitts’ first words to the class was that she felt she had devoted her life to husband and kids, and with not much left for herself..She wants to reclaim lost territory, a fairly typical lament…I spend lots of time with folks who feel this way for one reason or another. As George Eliot said “It is never too late to be  the man/woman you could have been.” I believe this. I have seen some make this happen. My job is to see if I can help make it happen.

Every class is its own dynamic. I have never had two students alike even after being a photo workshop teacher for 40+ years. I will show you other types of students in the future who take an entirely different direction than these three. Again shown here to be helpful for some and not intended to be finished essays.



Related links

Verna Pitts / Facebook / Twitter

Kate McElwee / Facebook

Joshua Dwain Frith / Facebook


23 Responses to “at home – loft workshops 2013”

  • Hey David, wish I had been able to stop by one day of the workshop. Looks like you had a great group this time around!

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Multi. Media.

    I’m still not comfortable with this thing that still doesn’t quite work.


    Joshua’s doing some very nice work from inside and your voice is important. Kate, I wish you didn’t think you needed music to substitute for what is already there visually. Verna, the best of everything is right there in your words and images.

    Obviously, keep making work. It’s the only way to figure it all out. Have a great day.

  • Just …beautiful.
    I had a long list of ‘serious’ topics for my essay that you promptly went down “no, no, no”. I threw out a every off the cuff idea I could. Nope. You had me just go out, go down the street, take a left and meet people. I felt thrown out into an abyss. It was like being a kid getting thrown into the deep end for the first time, terrified and exhilarated …I was Alice going down the rabbit hole. So grateful for it all.
    Makes me really happy to see these wonderful projects and know how meaningful their experience will still be for them years later. Thanks for being a relentless champion of dreams. xo

  • Wedding photography? Isn’t that sort of like what Nachtwey does, except with free drinks?

  • Nice works: how to be close to your family, inside a house, without the need to go out to the street… And self portraits, something I think we are not used to do it, but Kate and Verna have done a great work.
    Also very interesting the words of George Eliot, really is it possible, never too late? ha ha

    Always learning with Burn… David , when a workshop in Madrid??


  • David, thanks for sharing this.

    Making images of our family, of ourselves…a great process for self exploration. Maybe has less to do with photography and more about finding our true voice. Facing ourselves psychologically.

    I take photos of strangers. My comfort zone. I’ve tried my family. Not comfortable one bit. I always bail.

    Would love to hear from your students. Tell us how it felt. How it feels now. And how do they proceed from here.

    Hope you are well David.

  • I like this, nice work even though you say they are not full essay i think they are on their way to become… congrats to you and your students! really want to take one of your clases David


  • I like these a lot. No pretense, no over thinking. Just doing. Like to see more.

  • Candid essays and I get the feeling there’s been an inmense amount of heartfelt effort to bring these essays to fruition. It must be such a satisfying feeling for the students and David to finally see the light and break on through to the other side. If one can’t find inspiration and ideas in this multimedia essay one might as well hang the camera up and try something else.

  • Guess I will be going to try try something else then .

    Anyone wanna buy a bag full of beaten up old cameras???? :)

  • John….don’t give up. Never give up. It isn’t supposed to be easy, or pretty, or instant. This was like torture for me. Freedom to do what I wanted was a joke played on me. Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it. I was a mess….but I kept shooting.

    Virgil, I have seen a sliver of light and am scrambling to get over the walls of the box I have been in. I feel more free, languid. More fluid as I shoot. Happy to be a photographer.

    Thank you all for sharing. Thank you.

  • John, John, John, … and I mean that kindly, cause you already know. :))

  • OK…

    Joshua Dwain Frith – caused me to feel hopeless, claustrophobic and to contemplate ultimate futility – so I guess he accomplished what he wanted to.

    Kate McElwee has faced the greatest dread I ever felt going into photography and seems to have so far survived it okay so it seems to actually work for some folks. The first time I watched it, I fear both my mind and my eye kept wondering to see what my cat was up too and how my fish were doing. When it got to the end, I realized I had no idea what I had just watched, so I watched it again. It struck me as the work of very young and sensitive person, seeking her creative soul, grabbing glimpses of it but not quite sure where to look.

    I believe she will figure it out.

    Verna Pitts – devoted her life to husband and family and now picks up a camera and points at herself. I hope she gets the picture. Of course, she makes me feel a little guilty, too. What has my own wife has missed?

  • A record for typos, I think!

    I need to sleep, that’s why. I’ve been a running a pace that would drive even David into the ground. Maybe not. He’s pretty tough. But maybe.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    your civi (the fighter)

    reporting from Grecolandia…oime

  • a civilian-mass audience



  • Gladdy, I feel you, man*. Have you considered a workshop?

    *Sorry, I’m binge watching The Wire and am fighting the urge to start talking like an inner city gang member from the mid-00’s. It’s already gotten me in trouble at home.

  • “Guess I will be going to try try something else then.”
    Yeah I’ll believe it when I see it! :)

    BTW very sorry not to be able to meet up and see you Thomas and David in London. Oh well I will manage it sometime next year and that’s a promise.

  • “Oh well I will manage it sometime next year and that’s a promise.”

    I’m always taken up short when I see someone promise to do something “next year,” suggesting that “next year” is a sturdy log home built on solid rock. We humans create interesting constructs to give substance to the amorphous cloud we live in.

    (O.K., back to our regular programming)

  • Jim…
    Obviously we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting. You wouldn’t doubt my promise. The only reason I’m not going to London to see Dah, John and Thomas is because I can’t bloody afford the exorbitant flight tickets at this time of year. I’ve got a year to plan things with time…

  • Paul, when the time comes, please give me 24 hours notice and I will come, too, and join you all. And that’s a promise.*

    *I reserve the right to break this promise for any reason, feasible or unfeasible. It would be fun, though.

  • a civilian-mass audience


    ok,back to our regular program ming

    P.S…when is the London meeting?

Comments are currently closed.